US expert Tom Collins looks at the Graded races at Oaklawn Park on Saturday
8.17 Gulfstream Park
10.14 Oaklawn Park
3pts winPoint Of Honor
11.16 Oaklawn Park
1pt each-wayThe resumption of domesticaction looks a while off yet, so for those who are missing top-class horseracing make sure you tune in to the US fare on Saturday, especially at Oaklawn.
Arkansas's main track hosts a competitive-looking card that features two Graded contests, the first of which is the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (10.14).
Run over 6f on the dirt track with a total purse of $350,000, the Count Fleet has unsurprisingly attracted a big field of talented sprinters, with a number of unexposed rivals pitting their wits against some stalwarts in the division.
The Bill Mott-trained Hidden Scroll, who willattract a lot of money, makes his second start back from a layoff and is one of the most exciting horses in America when putting it all together. But he could have his work cut out in this race as there appears to be plenty of early pace.
They are likely to go 21 and change in the first quarter thanks to the forward-going Bobby's Wicked One, which will probably set it up for a closer, and the horse they all have to beat is the Ron Moquett-trained Whitmore.
Although he is the oldest horse in this field, seven-year-old Whitmore remains on top of his game and this has undoubtedly been his target since the start of the campaign.
He appeared to need the run after a two-month layoff when second here in February, but produced a much better effort when hacking up in a good time over this course and distance when last seen.
Moquett plundered this race with the star in his barn in 2017 and 2018 and although he was beaten into second last year, Whitmore chased Mitole throughout and just couldn't reel in that talented rival.
There is no Mitole in this year's edition and Whitmore should have the perfect pace set-up to close late and record a hat-trick in this Grade 3 event.
The feature race at Oaklawn in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Stakes (11.16), where a pace burn-up looks likely once again with Cookie Dough set to challenge the extremely fast Serengeti Empress in the early stages.
It's not difficult to imagine Serengeti Empress fending off that inferior rival and scooting clear of her opposition, but she will need to be right at her best to win this and the fact that sprinter Come Dancing is also in the line-up means she could be pestered throughout.
Come Dancing is an interesting sort and is probably the most talented filly in the race, but I don't think she will be suited to two turns and her stamina could fade away entering the stretch.
Consequently, it could pay to side with a late closer at a bigger price. Street Band, ridden by Sophie Doyle, is worthy of a mention, but the preference is for George Weaver's Point Of Honor.
This daughter of Curlin has made a good start to her career with three victories and three runner-up efforts from seven starts and although she steps up in class today, her Saratoga form last summer stacks up well.
She was second in both the Grade 1 American Oaks and Alabama Stakes to end her three-year-old campaign, closing well from off the pace on each occasion, and a replication of either effort (finished behind top fillies Dunbar Road and Guarana) would see her feature here.
Her latest run in handicap company was clearly a prep for this race and Weaver has a 38 per cent strike-rate (8-21) with four-year-olds or older who are making their second start after 180-day or longer layoff on dirt in the last five years.
The Gulfstream Park meet continues over in Florida and although the fare isn't the same quality as at Oaklawn, I'm keen on Big Spenderin the $20,000 claimer (8.17) for trainer David Fawkes.
This quick gelding has won just one of eight starts, but has proved unlucky in recent outings and could easily come here with four wins to his name.
Big Spender caught the eye when bobbling badly at the start last time in a better race than this over course and distance. Normally that would cost a sprinter all chance but he quickly regathered his stride and surged up to make the pace.
He battled on gamely in the straight to finish second to a rival who had the perfect trip and finished clear of third home.
His recent work was very good and the booking of Emisael Jaramillo, who is best on front-runners, is a huge plus.
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